Access vs Web

A friend was over for dinner last night who is an IT manager and former client of mine.   I have done several hugely succesful major Access/SQL Server applications for this guy when he was with another corporation.

We went into my office and I showed him an implementation of an Access application I have recently done that is delivered to the users worldwide using a VPN and then into a Terminal Services session.  I took him into my test site and he saw how fast it ran and how functional the whole app was – and the entire application, data and frontend reside on a SharePoint site. 

I explained how the deployment was a easy as emailing a single URL to the users and how maintenance was managed from a single point on a SharePoint site (eventually there will be a White Paper on this coming out from MS or I will be posting it here myself).

Then he said the usual thing:

“Why didn’t they do that in a Web App instead of Access?” …  Thanx

And this from a guy who KNOWS what Access can do.  (I once had the same response from an Access PM at Microsoft, which was even more disturbing).

I responded that from my information it would take many times longer and cost 5 times as much to develop for the Web natively.  I then postulated that even then the maintenance and changes that inevitably get requested would take longer and be more difficult.  I explained that there seems no end to the quirky things users ask from such an application and from my experience Access has been verY capable of this kind of customization.  I would rather bend my technology to the wants and needs of the client than the other way around.

So even though this guy, who KNOWS  the power of Access as much as anyone I know, even when I showed him how by using the newest technogies available for the Internet/Intranet I could solve all the deployment issues that have always plagued a client-side solution,  has still been brain-washed against Access and in favour of ANYTHING Browser-based. 

Makes me think that maybe I’m beating my head against a wall some times.  The truth doesn’t seem to matter anymore and I think Microsoft really has no desire to do what it takes to counter that argument in favour of Access.

Kinda discouraging … Thoughts?


About Biggus Dickus

Dick is a consultant in London, ON Canada who specializes in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office Development.
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9 Responses to Access vs Web

  1. Omar says:

    My employer is looking at a new business system. A big criteria is that it is able to communicate with our supplier for inventory and other needs. Our short list included one web app (with an old IBM AS/400 backend, and two client server types (one built with Powerbuilder(?!), and one with VB.NET).

    Our IT consultant liked the idea of the web app, but I (as a user) hated the idea. I wanted something with decent performance (no web page lag), decent user interface and efficient keyboard and mouse navigation.

    Anyway, after seeing how the one client server system did its updates, he came around. So, I think there is hope yet for solid applications with user interfaces that don’t break every time a third party application changes.

  2. Dick Moffat says:


    Amen !!


  3. Harlan Grove says:

    Browsers are the new mainframe terminals. IT/IS departments love ’em because they want centralization and server-based processing ensures centralization.

    • Dick Moffat says:

      Absolutely !! They’ve waited a long time to kill ll this “Empowering Users” crap … it’s anathema to them.


  4. Simon says:

    Very few people ‘want’ rich clients. Those who would benefit most, either don’t realise what they are missing, or have other things to worry about (like keeping their job).
    us rich client devs have a bit of a vested interest so no one listens to us.
    And IT/IS departments hate rich client, and love crippled browser apps.
    Only one vendor has any interest in increasing client lock in to Office apps, all the others would rather torpedo them.
    MS doesn’t seem to have the courage of its convictions to push back and sell in the very real benefits (perhaps they are too busy hoping Win7 will rescue them from the Vista disaster)
    Although I note our tech preview Office 2010 Web bits are late.

  5. Dick Moffat says:


    “Although I note our tech preview Office 2010 Web bits are late.” That is interesting but it is still relatively early beta.

    I’m just itching to see their Excel Web offering (really). I’m also kinda excited about the prospects for Excel Services in 2010 – I think there may be a story there that we can all tap into.


  6. OK, I might as well just come clean. On my plate for next year is converting some desktop apps to web apps. If I went your route instead, here’s what I have:


    Here’s what I need:

    Terminal Server license
    Terminal Server hardware to handle all the requests
    Access licenses?

    Maybe I can use the Access runtime, but I’m not sure how to prevent TSers from launching full Access. I think I should do a blog post about it and then we can have an all-out blog battle.

  7. Alan Cossey says:

    Dick K,
    An Access 2010 runtime front end with a Sharepoint 2010 back end may be what you want, perhaps using a hosted Sharepoint site. The only thing that concerns me at the moment with such a scenario is security of the data since the data would be cached on the client and I’ve not seen anything coming from Microsoft about security for it yet.
    Another alternative might be Access with SQL Azure if Microsoft ever make it possible to use read-write linked tables with SQL Azure.

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      My understanding is that the SharePoint security model applies to the cached version on the client. At least that’s what I was told in a meeting at MS once. If so then we should be ok.

      As far as security is concerned, the number of apps that require airtight security that will be created using this technology is a small percentage of the total and shouldn’t be used as a reason not to use this technology at all 🙂 … There is such a thing as “Good enough” security which is mostly aimed at preventing someone with “dumb intent from getting down to the table level where they don’t belong. I think that will be adequately handled in A2010’s off-line story.


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